While gossiping around the water cooler can be a fun diversion from time to time, making it a habit can interfere with day-to-day job duties and even worse, lead to some tough dynamics in the workplace. Some offices have more drama than General Hospital, and it’s best to be a viewer, not a participant in the on-going soap operas. Here are some ways to avoid getting pulled into the fray:
Be professional: No matter what’s going on in the office, don’t allow yourself to be pulled into the negativity. When you partake in the gossip and negativity of office politics, you can end up on the level of sniping co-workers. Once you react to their less-than-professional behavior you become part of the problem. Take a step back and focus on doing your job. When your co-workers get together to gossip, try your best not to be drawn into those conversations. Be selective as to what type of group you align yourself with in the office, and keep in mind that your reputation is paramount to your success.
Keep your integrity: Remember who you are and keep in touch with your values—are you a trusted member of a team, or one who will do anything to get ahead? Be aware of your actions, and make sure that they align with your values. It may help to set boundaries when it comes to how you interact with the people around you. Remember that you are in control of your own actions, and that although you can’t control the office dynamics, you do have mastery over your own reactions and personal integrity.
Stay balanced: An office filled with drama and politics can be extremely stressful, especially when you’re doing your best to stay out of it all. You can end up dreading going to work each day and be very stressed when you are there. Find ways to deal with the tension by taking breaks during the day when possible by meeting a friend for lunch, taking a walk, or closing your office door to take deep cleansing breaths every few hours. Try to make your weekends relaxing and to plan diversions that are restorative rather than hectic.
The bottom line is protecting yourself and your career by being smart about how you participate in office politics and drama. Be aware that it exists, but be careful about your role in it. Try to look at the big picture and stay clear as much as possible—be a leader in the effort to create a peaceful work environment.
—Pamela Weinberg, Career Coach